Planning a Birthday Party - MetroFamily Magazine
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Planning a Birthday Party

by Jan Udlock

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

Your child’s birthday is coming soon. You want your child to have a terrific birthday party and create fun memories. With some simple planning and preparation, you can make your child’s party run smoother. Here are some easy ideas and tips:

  • Get your kids involved. The first step a parent needs to take is to talk with your child about what he wants for his birthday party. Talk to him about who he’d like to invite and what he’d like to do.
  • Pick your size. The size of the party will help determine the other parameters of the day. Avoid inviting too many kids. “When you invite a smaller number of kids, it makes it more enjoyable for your child, you, and the rest of the kids,” says Angela Dean, mom of two. Another point to consider is that when you invite certain kids, do they have siblings that will want to join? Can your party venue accommodate them? Think through how to word your invitation if siblings are not invited.
  • To theme or not to theme? Themes do not have to be complex. Start with something your child adores and take it from there. You can keep it very simple for younger children. “Balloons [can be] enough. You don’t need all those streamers and extra decorations,” says Kellie Knutson, mom of four.
  • Food. Fabulous candies and cute cookies adorn the pages of magazines so parents can easily go overboard with party food. To balance, pick easy healthy snacks to go along with the cake. Remember to check with all of the children’s mothers to see if there are any allergies.
  • Cake and ice cream. Decide if you want to make and decorate the cake on your own or buy it at a bakery or a discount warehouse store. Cupcakes or plain sugar cookies can be baked beforehand, and kids can decorate their own cupcake or cookie as the party activity. Ice cream can be scooped out with an ice cream scooper, put in a cupcake paper liner, placed on a cookie sheet and put in the freezer the night before. When the cake is cut, pull out the tray of ice cream from the freezer to serve each child.
  • Games and activities. Pick age-appropriate games and walk through the game beforehand to see if it works in the area that you planning on using. “Games, where the kids move around like musical chairs, relays, and races, are great because young children have such short attention spans,” says Knutson. Cover tables with either butcher paper or a clear vinyl tablecloth if you have any messy activities.
  • Find helpers. Enlist help from a friend who can either come early to help you put the finishing touches on your party or stay late to help you clean up. Ask her to help with taking pictures or writing down the gift information so you can enjoy the day with your child.
  • Goodie bag or not? Dollar stores are a treasure trove for tiny gifts like pencils, erasers, a bottle of bubbles, etc. Yet, not every birthday party sends home goodie bags. A craft activity such as a decorated picture frame or painted flower pot can go home with the artist instead.
  • Protect your pets. If you have inside pets or the kids will be outside around the dog, separate your pets from the party for their own protection. Some children are afraid of dogs and some kids do not know how to treat pets properly. “It’s not fair to your animal to have a piece of cake shoved up its nose,” says Diane Smith, mom of two.


Last-minute Party Planning Hints:

  • Gather party-day essentials: your camera, batteries, film or memory card, the cake knife, matches, a permanent marker, pen, paper and scotch tape.
  • Be prepared for young children to become overwhelmed with activity. If you see a child that seems to be withdrawing, pull them aside and check in with them. Have a quiet area for anyone who needs it.


Three-Week Birthday Party Planning Countdown

Three Weeks Before

  1. Pick theme, games and activities, food, cake
  2. Send out invitations

Two Weeks Before

  1. Buy nonperishable items: balloons, decorations, paper goods, drinks, prizes
  2. Find a friend who can help at the party
  3. Purchase your child’s gift
  4. Order cake

One Week Before

  1. Evaluate each room where the kids will play to see what needs to be picked up and put away (breakable trinkets, personal papers, electronic games, etc.)
  2. Shop for perishable items: fruit, candy, etc.
  3. Contact any guests who have not RSVP’d
  4. Check on ice supply
  5. Prepare serving dishes such as punch bowls or candy dishes

One Day Before

  1. Make or buy cake; prepare ice cream “scoops”
  2.  Clean bathrooms, wipe down counters,
  3. Cover table with butcher paper
  4. Collect all necessary supplies and accessories
  5. Write attendees names on cups and goodie bags

Party Day

  1. Prepare your pets
  2. Blow up balloons
  3. Assign your helper mom any chore that needs to be done
  4. Take a deep breath and put a smile on your face

Jan Udlock is a mom of 5 and a freelance writer. She loves both jobs most of the time.

Find local party venues and party-planning services on our guide. For even more tips and tricks to pull off a memorable birthday party, click to learn more.

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